CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A South Suburb that has the highest property tax rate in Cook County could collect no property taxes next year. With a midnight deadline looming, politicians in Harvey have not approved a tax ordinance required by state law.
Harvey has already faced a severe financial crisis. If officials can't collect $15.3 million in property taxes, they concede Harvey may soon be unable to pay its bills. But there seems to be no sign of last-minute negotiations.
The City of Harvey's Council chamber was open, but empty Tuesday night. Insiders said there were no negotiations between a four-member Council majority and Mayor Eric Kellogg, who's been chronically camera-shy since an FBI investigation targeted him.
Kellogg's threatened to layoff half of the police and fire departments, which is a fearful prospect to those already worried about Harvey's high rate of violent crime that they don't want to be seen on camera.
“If the police is not out here and they get laid off, I won't be in Harvey,” one resident said.
FOX 32: But you're afraid to say that on camera?
“Yes, I am,” the woman responded.
Harvey Ald. Christopher Clark, a member of the Council majority, blamed the mayor for the standoff. Clark accused Kellogg of withholding vital financial information from the Council, including a comprehensive list of employees and their wages, as well as vendors and what exactly they do for Harvey. He pointed to a mysterious $40,000 line item for telephones for the Finance Department, where only a handful of people work.
Ald. Keith Price, who is one of three Council members allied with the mayor, insisted he's received all the financial information he's ever requested.
“It's saddening to me to know, holiday time, coming into the New Year, that we may have to do layoffs because of a tax levy,” Price said.
Cook County Clerk David Orr said a messenger delivered a copy of Harvey's proposed $15.3 million property tax ordinance, signed only by Mayor Kellogg, with blank spaces where City Council members were to sign. Orr said he didn't think any other local taxing body had ever missed the midnight deadline.
“We have a major political battle. But it's going to wreak havoc on the citizens of Harvey if they don't clean up their act immediately,” Orr said.
“This is gonna be a very bad situation. Yep. I believe so,” resident Herman Wilson said.